They say baseball brings out the child in them.
Even as we grow older, however, some of our childhood pastimes don’t fade out of the spotlight.
I grew up spending every summer hour from dawn to dusk in my backyard.
My best friend and I would play “fake games,” which consisted of imaginary wiffleball games where the two of us played both teams and all 18 players. We tossed the ball up to ourselves and let our creativity unfold the rest.
I’d step up to the plate, pretending I was the actual player.
When Andres Galarraga stepped to the plate, my stance was open. When it was Dante Bichette’s turn in the lineup I would remove my hat from my head, run my fingers through my imaginary long hair and clinch both hands on the ends of the bat and circle it over my head like he used to do.
We had a magic erase board for the scoreboard and my dog’s pen for the dugout.
One summer when my next door neighbor was getting his house painted, the painters stayed late so they could listen to the excitement in our voices as we called the game.
Perhaps that was the game that concluded when Larry Walker hit a walk-off home run, clanking off the neighbor’s house, still fresh with wet paint.
When my friend wasn’t around, the baseball didn’t stop.
I used my pitch-back to, again, throw my imaginary games. This time I was the actual player on the roster, playing for a big league team.
I gave myself four seconds to field the ball, throw it to the net and have it bounce back into my glove in order to record an out. For every four seconds it took to do that, it was another base.
I even kept track of stats and recorded them into a document on the computer. After the game I would conduct my own postgame interviews, where I, both the analyst and the manager, would discuss the game and box score.
Now, a decade later, I’m a 20-year-old grown man and my imagination still runs wild.
There is no greater summer evening activity than getting friends together for a game of wiffleball.
My friend has an ideal wiffleball yard, full of fenced off home run areas, a short porch in right field and the giant pine tree, ruled as an automatic ground rule double.
Two floodlights make up the lighting so the games can stretch well into the evening while a home-made block of wood marks the strike zone.
We’ll even cut the grass into a baseball diamond and chalk the base paths with flour.
It’s now my turn to bat. Two pitches go by, the latter banking off the wooden strike zone. On the third pitch I take a swing and watch it soar.
“That one’s hit deep,” I shout out. “Back, to the track, you can kiss it goodbye.”
This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.
Opening Weekend is upon us at last.
But baseball season right around the corner brings uncertainties for each ballclub.
Heading into his club-leading eighth season at the helm of the Rockies, manager Clint Hurdle has reached the end of his contract.
Owners Dick and Charlie Monfort have made it clear that Hurdle’s performance will be judged critically and that no Opening Day contract extensions will be awarded like in 2007.
During the offseason, the Rockies cleared out a majority of Hurdle’s coaching staff and brought in veterans like Jim Tracy (bench coach) and former Rockies manager Don Baylor (hitting coach).
A couple wrong moves by Hurdle and one of these guys could be getting a promotion.
Baylor led the Rockies for their first six years of existence before being fired for Jim Leyland, who had just led the Florida Marlins to their first World Series championship two years prior.
Leyland quickly fled, and then Buddy Bell managed for two years and a few games, and then Hurdle replaced him less than a month into the 2002 season.
Baylor, whose career coaching record in Colorado stands at 440-469 (.484), has the highest winning percentage in club history.
His tenure with the Rockies includes the team’s first trip to the postseason, a 1995 Wild Card berth, and a Manager of the Year award.
In his final season with the Rockies, he guided them to a fourth-place finish and a 77-85 record. With this statistic, it doesn’t bother me that he was replaced soon after.
What does bother me, however, is the fact that the Rockies have bettered that record just twice in the 10 seasons since, and just one time under Hurdle’s reign.
Despite his sub-.500 career record, Baylor is the best manager the Rockies have ever had. He has been so instrumental to the club that he was even selected to be an honorary member on Hurdle’s staff at the 2008 All-Star Game because of his influence to the ballclub.
Baylor has brought a noticeable amount of change to the Rockies clubhouse this spring. The team’s offensive numbers are showing evident improvements, with several players giving Baylor the credit.
The team’s offense shows a lot of potential with power in the lineup from the top all the way through. It even seems a little bit like the Blake Street Bombers–the offensive powerhouses of Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga, and Larry Walker during the late 1990s under Baylor’s managing.
Even without Matt Holliday in the lineup, the Rockies have known power coming from Brad Hawpe and Garrett Atkins. Todd Helton is showing that his back is healing just fine, while Ryan Spilborghs’ spring says that he can be a multi-tool center fielder, including a powerful bat. Troy Tulowitzki’s determination should help him bounce back from his sophomore slump, while Chris Iannetta’s numbers could top the chart among the league’s catchers. Seth Smith will get some outfield starts and even off the bench the Rockies are loaded, with names like Ian Stewart (hopefully not off the bench), and Jeff Baker.
Our pitching may be inconsistent, but the offense should be explosive. Maybe ditching the humidors and bringing back the days of the Bombers isn’t such a crazy thought.
Back in Baylor’s days as manager, he would hold The Don Baylor Show, a segment of the postgame show after Sunday afternoon games. Three kids in attendance were able to go on the show and ask the skipper a question for him to answer.
I once was lucky enough to get on the show. If I had the opportunity today, maybe I’d ask Baylor to bring back the power at Coors Field.
Baylor has been missed. Could his presence in the clubhouse result in the Blake Street Bombers 2.0?
This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.